Once more, a calendar year draws to a close. 2012 has been an interesting year, especially in the world of the Eurovision Song Contest. From the changes already announced by SVT, to the political focus put on the Contest thanks to the hosting by Azerbaijan, Eurovision has show itself once more to be a force for change, for understanding, and for reconciliation.
Of course there’s been some music as well. For our last article of the year, Insight’s editorial team are looking back through the CD collections, MP3 playlists, YouTube bookmarks, and more, to chosen two tracks from the year that we’ve really enjoyed – not necessarily from the 2012 final, it could be a National Final entry, a song from one of this year’s performers, or a 2012 album track from a previous artist.
The only rule was they all needed to have a connection to Eurovision, and have been published in 2012. What have we come up with to remember the last twelve months?
Crno I Belo, by Kaliopi (Macedonia 2012)
Some established artists in the United Kingdom might think it risky to try their hand at Eurovision, feeling they might lose some sort of credibility if they don’t take home a victory. Some fans find it just as risky to return to the Song Contest stage after a previous attempt, as anything less than a high score might just rub salt in the wound of the past.
Macedonia’s Kaliopi shrugged off these misconceptions with a charm, grace, and flawless ability that gave her country its highest placement in years. Despite her 1996 entry, ‘Samo Ti‘, being eliminated before the public even had the chance to hear it, the former Mrs. Romeo Grill wasn’t soured on the idea of Eurovision, and proved that with experience comes wisdom. With every run-through of ‘Crno I Belo’, Kaliopi was pitch-perfect, never holding back or half-assing a rehearsal (even that Crystal Hall-shattering scream that gave Rona Nishliu a run for her money). Offstage, she handled the often-chaotic Press Centre with ease, offering hugs and kisses, cracking jokes, fielding the ever-persistent questions from the Greek press about her nation’s nomenclature, and even sweeping our experienced interviewer Terry off of his feet.
When I look back at my time in Baku, Kaliopi’s moment simply glows in my memory. It’s as simple as black and white.
Leyndarmál, by Íris Hólm
For a nation of just over 320,000 inhabitants, Iceland has a deep and talented musical well to draw from. This year’s Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins (and yes, I had to copy-paste that to make sure I spelled it right) was full of familiar names and newcomers alike.
As much as I loved eventual winner ‘Mundu eftir mér’ and third place finisher ‘Hugarró‘, the standout for me sadly didn’t even make it out of its semi-final. Íris Hólm’s ‘Leyndarmál’ (‘Secret’), is a sweet bit of mid tempo pop that could have easily been a track on a Kelly Clarkson album – assuming Kelly were Icelandic, in which case she’d actually be Kelly Stevensdóttir. Eurovision fanatics love a good key-change, but ‘Leyndarmál‘ features a rare time-signature change that immediately stayed in my head. With lyrics by Thorunn Erna Claussen, who also worked on the English adaptation of “Coming Home” on behalf of her late husband Sigurjón Brink, this sweet ode to the uncertainty of a secret crush certainly remains a well-loved track on my iTunes.
I Don’t Know, by Pop Maniacs (Eesti Laul 2012)
I adore Eesti Laul – my most anticipated viewing in the calender of national finals. Its a national competition that stands well on its own, both in terms of quality and staging, yet without requiring some crazy budget like Melodifestivalen. For Estonia this is not just as another Eurovision selection program, its about acknowledging and encouraging local singing and songwriting talent. So from the contest, this is the song gets my nod for my favourite that was left behind in 2012. Not because it was the best pop song at Eesti Laul (the right song definitely won), but I admire the persistence of Rolf Roosalu in wanting to represent his country. He’ll be back again in 2013 and my fingers are crossed he’ll finally get the win he deserves.
Crno I Belo, by Kaliopi (Macedonia 2012)
This selection is more about invoking a memory more than the song itself. Kaliopi was an absolute star at Eurovision this year. Her gravel-voice, her carefree attitude and her unique rock tune were all a big breath of fresh air to the atmosphere in Baku. She provided us with some of the happiest and funniest moments for the ESC Insight team (with our Terry always close by), and I genuinely cried tears of happiness when FYR Macedonia finally qualified once again for the final after being absent for a number of years. Crno I Belo is my Eurovision 2012 anthem now, it always brings a smile to my face. And if the Macedonians now wanted to send Kaliopi every year as their representative, I wouldn’t argue with that decision.
Sorry Sharleen, Sam got there first, try again – Ewan
Ok, so can I have Tooji? – Sharleen
Stay, by Tooji (Norway 2012)
Even looking back to 6 months ago I feel a tinge of sadness about Eurovision 2012. Its not about the location, the people, the fact that another Song Contest is over and we have almost six more months to wait. Its all because I still feel that Norways’ entry deserved a better position than last place on Saturday night. Tooji may have been ‘the Norwegian Saade’ in the minds of many. However in my mind ‘Stay‘ was a far better song, and on and off the stage Tooji exuded far more personality and energy than the third placed Eric from Sweden of 2011. This pure pop gem still brings a smile to the faces of ESC Insight and thus remains on the dance playlist beyond the Contest.
Euro-Neuro, by Rambo Amadeus (Montenegro 2012)
This fractured groove punk marvel divided opinion. Either you loved it as if it were one of your own children, or you were the other 98% of Eurovision fandom. For me it was one of the most intelligent Eurovision tunes in years, with possibly the most difficult beats ever to grace the contest.
However, it was the live version at the opening party in Baku’s Hall of Handsports that was my favourite moment of 2012. Where all the other acts gently shrieked to playback, the good lord Rambo treated us to a full seven minutes of complicated art jazz roughly based around his hit, which drew looks of confusion and pure fear from the massed ranks of Euroclub regulars. What a guy!
Don’t Say Sorry, by Bianca Purcarea (Romania)
Imagine the scene. You’ve battled for the chance to represent your country at Eurovision. You’re drawn last but one in your national final, and as the night goes on the nerves are building and your throat is getting tighter. Finally it’s your turn to perform. A whole nation are watching in anticipation, but as you start to sing you realise that you can’t hear yourself particularly well. But it’s OK, you’ll battle through…
What follows is one of the most uncomfortable three minutes of the entire 2012 Eurovision season. I think the faces of the backing singers say it best. Poor, poor girl.
As well as contributing at ESC Insight, Roy highlights ”the good, the bad and the unlikely from the Continent’s greatest Song Contest” at Eurovision Apocalypse.
Kuula, by Ott Lepland (Estonia 2012)
Unsurprisingly Estonia’s 2012 entry was the highlight of the Contest this year for me. It was my favourite song before the contest and remains so seven months later. What a voice, what a performance, what a package… (ahem). I love the Estonian language – minu meelest eesti keeles on ilus! Interesting that out of all of their qualifiers Estonia have done their best when performing in their native tongue (finishing sixth in both 2009 and 2012).
This Is The Night, by Kury Calleja (Malta 20120
I’ve always supported puckly little Malta and would dearly love them to score a Eurovision victory one day. Whilst they were a long way off victory in 2012, the delight the delegation (and everyone back home) had from simply qualifying from a tough semi final, against the odds was clear for everyone to see and enjoy. I was absolutely delighted for them, they’re always such an enthusiastic delegation. If they can make through to the final despite stiff competition then surely a victory can’t be too far off?
Euphoria, by Loreen (Sweden 2012)
Maybe this was somewhat predictable (someone had to pick it! – Ewan) but I still love this song. Since Loreen won Eurovision I’ve moved to South Africa, and I can’t seen to escape it here either. In fact, for Christmas I spent a few days in Mozambique and, guess what, in the most tiny village in the middle of nowhere I found a ‘club’ belting her Swedishness out at full pelt.
I still love this song and it was a clear favourite of mine right from the second semi at Melodifestivalen. The history trail of this track is amazing, basically coming up from behind to taking over the entire globe. Or so it seems.
It’s a classy dance track that everyone I spoke to in Baku agreed, understated and refined. As much as a dance track can be. It was a hugely welcome antidote to some of the slightly strange choices for winners over the last few years, and it managed to keep those Pesky Russian Grannies at bay. Those two songs stole the show that night, and the latter one would have set us back 20 years or more in the eyes of more cynical Eurovision audiences. Thank God for Loreen.
Quédate Conmigo, by Pastora Soler (Spain 2012)
Wow, wow and more wow. Spain? Really? How rubbish have Spanish songs been recently at ESC? This bucked the trend, and then some. I adore this song and it should have placed in the top 3. And the Grannies aren’t on my personal podium in case you’re wondering.
My ideal top two in any order would have been Loreen or Pastora Soler. I still play this – a lot – and it always brings back memories of watching this Spanish guy sitting in front of me in the audience absolutely crying his eyes out when Pastora pelted out the final notes of this beautiful track. He was totally beside himself, I know how famous she is in Spain so maybe that was part of it, but he was blown away about something that night and so was I, even though I had heard the song rehearsed and rehearsed like 10 million times. And it will be played again another 10 million times in my house if I have anything to do with it!
Gonna go for a cry now.
Ola Nordman, by Plumbo (Melodi Grand Prix 2012)
It’s hard to remember back to the days leading up the Melodi Grand Prix final on February 11th this year, but there was a certain amount of flag waving for rockers Plumbo. To me it had everything, a touch of folk, a strong beat and melody, a schlager-esque construction to the song… this was top ten material for May, and could easily go all way. Unfortunately the general fan view didn’t agree with me – but Keith Mills did. Perhaps that should have told me something?
Plumbo topped the table for their semi-final, but between that result and the final, the press decided that a previous incident of bad taste was going to be emphasised, and Plumbo scraped a fourth place on finals night. Perhaps it was for the best. The week before had seen the first heat of Melodifestivalen in neighbouring Sweden, and Loreen had romped to the final with ‘Euphoria‘. If Plumbo had kept their mouths shut they would only have finished third at best, even with Rhod Gilbert on the penny whistle.
Still, for me this is the one that got away…
Gel, by Sabina Babayeva (traditional arrangement, Azerbaijan 2012)
So here’s the question. How much did Azerbaijan not want to host The Eurovision Song Contest in 2013?
They had a potential winner in Sabina Babayeva’s song, and I think they knew it. Calling the English version of their 2013 song ‘When The Music Dies’ invited the negatives from the commentators across Europe, but the presentation on home soil had the kitchen sink thrown at it, with a horrible clash of power ballad, Mugam legend Alim Quasimov, and the new Matt Smith opening titles to Doctor Who on Babayeva’s dress, all on show. This dampened the song down enough to give it a respectable yet non-threatening fourth place.
If the song had been given room to breath, to be itself, and not made to sound like a cheap mash-up of Electric Six and The Muppet Show, then the Crystal Arena might not have needed all those mothballs. So it’s the traditional version of the song, Gel, that holds so many memories of the 2012 Eurovision story. A story of hope, patriotism, missed opportunities, political posturing, intrigue and above all, memorable music.
Over to you all now, what are your Eurovision moments of 2012? Off the beaten track or is it Euphoria all the way? Lets us know in the comments!